The visibility of a profile varies by site and according to user discretion.

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While their key technological features are fairly consistent, the cultures that emerge around SNSs are varied.

Most sites support the maintenance of pre-existing social networks, but others help strangers connect based on shared interests, political views, or activities.

By collecting these articles in this issue, our goal is to showcase some of the interdisciplinary scholarship around these sites.

The purpose of this introduction is to provide a conceptual, historical, and scholarly context for the articles in this collection.

We then present one perspective on the history of such sites, discussing key changes and developments.

After briefly summarizing existing scholarship concerning SNSs, we discuss the articles in this special section and conclude with considerations for future research.

To emphasize this articulated social network as a critical organizing feature of these sites, we label them “social network sites.”While SNSs have implemented a wide variety of technical features, their backbone consists of visible profiles that display an articulated list of Friends who are also users of the system.

Profiles are unique pages where one can “type oneself into being” (Sundén, 2003, p. After joining an SNS, an individual is asked to fill out forms containing a series of questions.

Some of these social networks are general interest, some are niche-lifestyle or interest-specific, and others are widely used internationally and have not yet grown in the United States.